Keynes had eagerly collected Newton’s occult manuscripts all his life and he stated the situation in a very stark way. He said that Newton “was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians.”
This is important because scientists and magicians seem to tell very different stories about the world. The stories that science tells are meant to interlock with each other, like Legos. Every scientific story has certain features in common with every other scientific story. These features, like the use of mathematics or logic or the conceit that matter is atomic, allow explicit connections to be made between them, even if their subjects are widely separated. This availability for interconnection is one of the things that makes science a powerful force in our world.
The stories that magicians tell would seem to be very different. The word occult means “hidden;” this tends to describe the types of stories whose logic is not readily apparent. However, the important thing to remember is not that magical stories “don’t make sense” or that alchemy “doesn’t work,” but that Newton thought they did. This primordial connection between science and magic in a person like Newton allows us to tell a more interesting story about science than we otherwise might.